Neal Brown’s ability as a recruiter has been highly talked about ever since his arrival in Morgantown one year ago. Brown’s recruiting prowess was on full display over the last year when, as a first-year head coach, he put together a 20-man recruiting class that some experts ranked as high as the 28th best in the country.
Even Brown’s early work on the 2021 class has been impressive. The seven verbal commits Brown has already picked up for 2021 are again impressing experts, with the class already ranking in the teens.
One area of Brown’s recruiting strategy that has become obvious is that he has been aggressively recruiting West Virginia’s top in-state talent. In his first recruiting class, Brown brought in both of the state’s top two prospects, defensive end Sean Martin from Bluefield and center Zach Frazier from Fairmont.
Landing one or more of the top in-state recruits is not an uncommon thing for WVU in the past handful of years, but Brown aggression towards the state’s top-flight talent does seem to be more intense early on.
2019 was a particularly odd year for in-state recruiting, as all five of the top-rated West Virginia prospects signed with schools other than WVU. The top five in-state recruits went to Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Louisville and Marshall, in that order. The Mountaineers did sign the sixth and seventh rated recruits in the 2019 class, Kerry Martin and Nick Malone.
In a weaker 2018 class, WVU again snagged both of the top recruits, four-star Dante Stills and three-star Travis Lee. In 2017 the state had a much stronger class, but the Mountaineers did not sign as many. in 2017 WVU signed the number two (Derek Pitts), five (Maverick Wolfley) and seven (Darius Stills) ranked WV recruits, while the other top-ranked prospect chose schools like North Carolina, Tennessee, LSU and Louisville. Even in 2016 the Mountaineers only grabbed two of the top five in-state recruits, Reese Donahue and Dylan Tonkery.
Looking ahead to the 2020 class, Brown already has a verbal commitment from the number two prospect in the state, tackle Wyatt Milum and the number three prospect in the state, defensive end Zeiqui Lawton just put the Mountaineers in his top five. Top-in state recruit, cornerback Isaiah Johnson, has been stacking up big-time offers since the new year, but WVU seems to at least still be in the race.
While not one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country, the Mountain state can produce impact talent, especially for the old gold and blue. This past season WV natives were all over the field for the Mountaineers. Donahue and the Stills brothers made up one of the best defensive lines in the Big 12, Evan Staley and Casey Legg handled all of the team’s kicking duties, Tonkery had 30 tackes, three for a loss and Martin was one of the team’s top freshmen, with 50 tackles and five pass breakups.
Moving into next season it is looking like WV native should continue to play a big role on the team. Brown has already talked about the possibility of Frazier playing center from day one.